Side Effects

Looking for a great movie for grownups? Side Effects satisfies! It has a suspenseful story, well told, and compelling characters, well portrayed.

Rooney Mara is Emily Taylor, a twenty-something in NYC who meets Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) after she drives her car into a brick wall. He’s a shrink who begins treating her for depression. Channing Tatum plays her sympathetic husband who’s just been released from prison where he served time for insider trading.

One of the medications Dr. Banks prescribes for Emily appears to help but has a significant side effect: it causes sleepwalking. When Emily commits a crime, her meds and Dr. Banks are called into question. The situation is complicated by the fact that Dr. Banks is taking money from a drug company for consulting on medications.

Side Effects steps into many timely and topical areas, including mental illness and its treatments. Also within the film’s sights is the pharmaceutical industry, as well as doctors who are in cahoots with those companies. After Emily’s crime, the blame and the repercussions remain unresolved.

Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Dr. Victoria Siebert, a Connecticut psychologist who treated Emily for depression before Dr. Banks. As the story unfolds, her involvement with the drug companies becomes a key plot point.

While there is no doubt that psychotropic drugs have helped many people with mental illnesses function normally, we know that drug companies have marketed products with dangerous (sometimes lethal) side effects. It’s easy to throw stones at large organizations that have questionable practices, but not always so easy to determine which individuals should suffer the consequences.

That’s the case in Side Effects. Who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? And who’s in that gray area in the middle? See the movie and find out.

Side Effects is directed by Steven Soderbergh, whose movies are always interesting, even when they’re not as good as Side Effects. And, as with all his movies, the soundtrack is excellent. Thomas Newman is the music composer.

For Jude Law, this is his best performance in years. His stubble, worn in many scenes, gives him a more mature look. Rooney Mara was excellent in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but that was more of a caricature. In this role, she hits it out of the park as a real woman with real problems. Bravo!

Playing for Keeps

“Playing for Keeps” is a movie about a KIDS’ soccer team and a KIDS’ soccer coach, but it’s not a movie for KIDS. It’s PG-13. It’s a movie for soccer MOMS!

Gerard Butler is a divorced former pro soccer star. He has not done a good job of staying in touch with his son, who is about 8 years old. He reconnects with his son by becoming the boy’s soccer coach. Even though he was a cad, he still has strong feelings for his ex-wife, played by Jessica Biel.

Along the way, he is hit on by several attractive soccer moms. They are played by Uma Thurman, Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Catherine’s character helps him do an audition for an ESPN gig. He also gets hit on by Dennis Quaid—not for sex, but for playing time for his kid.

If you’ve ever seen a Hallmark or Lifetime movie, you can pretty much guess how this one turns out.

“Playing for Keeps” is a harmless piece of romantic comedy fluff. There are a few decent laughs and an appropriate amount of tearful regret and sappy sentimentality. Oh, and the kid is cute, too.